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The best game controllers for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV

Nenotoh Switch Controller

Level up your gaming on the iPhone and Apple TV with a new game controller. Here are some of your best options on the market.

There has been a belief among gamers that Apple's ecosystem isn't meant for "real" gaming. It's a meme that has hung around for quite a few years, insisting that Apple's products aren't really capable of providing the high-end graphics that consoles and PC gaming can offer.

There is a bit of truth to this, as Apple-related gaming has largely consisted of casual-friendly and mobile-focused titles, instead of triple-A blockbuster titles. However, it's not the whole story.

Titles such as Genshin Impact, Call of Duty: Mobile, and PUBG Mobile all prove it's possible to get a great gaming experience on a device you can fit into your pocket.

That's before you consider games that work across other platforms, including the Apple TV and the Mac. Then there are game-streaming services to consider, if you want that full-fat graphical experience of games that aren't available for Apple's ecosystem.

Apple's promotion of gaming on its ecosystem via Apple Arcade has also helped other non-mobile game types become more available to users, opening up the prospect of it being more of a serious gaming platform.

The gaming experience for retro game players should also improve in the coming months, after Apple changed App Store rules to allow classic game emulators into the digital storefront. The change should make it considerably easier to get the games on the big screen in the living room using an Apple TV.

There is still one element that is missing in what Apple offers gamers, and that is dedicated game controllers. Gamers who may be more used to console gaming would probably feel more at home playing similar games on mobile if they had a controller in their hand instead of tapping or swiping a screen all the time.

The same goes for Mac gaming, as while mouse and keyboard is prevalent in PC gaming, controller use is also quite widespread.

Despite the potential for gaming on its platforms, Apple hasn't actually offered users controllers of its own design. This leaves consumers with purchasing third-party controllers for playing games.

Getting the best game controllers could improve your overall gaming experience. It's also not as bewildering as you may think.

Take control with the best game controllers

It's actually fairly easy to pick up a game controller for your chosen gaming platform, as there are usually obvious indicators stating whether it will be compatible with your devices or not.

In the case of game consoles, an obvious choice that makes compatibility easy is to select first-party accessories. Obviously, this is not a possibility with Apple.

That's not to say Apple has looked into the concept, as patents and rumors indicate it has been considered internally, but hasn't yet become a reality.

Even so, there are still quite a few options out there for gamers to buy right now and use with their iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV. You do have to be careful, though.

For a start, Apple itself has made it possible to use first-party game controllers for major modern consoles with its ecosystem. If you have a game console released in the last few years, there's a good chance that it will be compatible with the controllers generally pairing over Bluetooth.

The second is that MFi accessories are a good general bet to work with Apple's hardware, but not everything. Made For iPhone hardware will work with an iPhone or iPad most of the time, but they will also primarily focus on working with just the mobile hardware Apple produces.

For example, an MFi controller made to fit an iPhone may need to receive power from the iPhone to work since it may not have a built-in battery. Other controllers need a wired connection to work.

This need for a physical connection effectively rules out most MFi controllers for use with the Apple TV, and also for Mac use without a cable.

Check if the MFi controller works beyond the iPhone and iPad if you intend to turn your Apple TV into a game console for your TV. The best game controllers offer universal capabilities, so always check for wide compatibility.

With Apple's adoption of USB-C in its newest mobile hardware releases, this also opens up the mobile controller market a lot more. While users previously had to use mobile controllers with Lightning connections, it's now possible to use Android-focused controllers with USB-C connections in many cases.

Sony PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller

One of the most sought-after controllers on the planet due to the rarity of the console itself at one point, the Sony PlayStation 5 DualSense Wireless Controller is one of the major game console peripherals that will also work with all of Apple's hardware.

Sony's design incorporates a left-hand directional pad, a pair of low thumbstick, bumpers and triggers, and Sony's four shape-based action buttons on the right-hand side. Extra buttons for social features, the PlayStation button for power, and a large touchpad are also included, though you're not likely to get much benefit from the last point.

On a PlayStation, the controller has features like built-in audio and haptic feedback, but you won't necessarily get to use them on Apple's hardware in most cases.

Sony PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller
Sony PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller

A big advantage of using the DualSense is that you can pair it to your Apple devices and still use it with your PlayStation 5. This could potentially be a money-saving option if you already own one, and it is especially handy if you're already used to the feel of Sony's peripheral.

Amazon sells the PlayStation DualSense Wireless Controller for $73, and it is available in a variety of colors.

An alternative to the DualSense Wireless Controller is the DualShock 4 Wireless Controller. Originally produced for the PlayStation 4, it offers practically the same basic features as the DualSense in terms of Apple-based gaming.

It is also cheaper, at $59.99 on Amazon, and again is sold in a variety of colors.

Xbox Core Wireless Gaming Controller

Just as Sony's popular console controllers work on iOS, so too does Microsoft's. Apple includes support for the Xbox Core Wireless Gaming Controller, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, Xbox Adaptive Controller, and the Xbox Wireless Controller Series S and Series X.

Our choice from the group is the Xbox Core Wireless Gaming Controller, which provides pretty much the same controls as Sony's version: a D-pad, two analog sticks, four main buttons, a pair of bumpers, and a pair of triggers.

Xbox Wireless Controller
Xbox Wireless Controller

While you can use Bluetooth to connect it to your Apple hardware, it also has USB-C allowing it to be used in a wired configuration with your Mac, saving you from draining the batteries. Again, you can also use them with your main game console, if you don't want to spend the money on a dedicated controller.

The Xbox Core Wireless Gaming Controller, available in a variety of colors, can be bought for around $54.98 on Amazon, depending on the color and availability.

Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons

Concluding the main console controllers, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers are designed for Nintendo's portable device, but they are able to work with Apple's hardware range. Rather than being a single unit like many other conventional controllers, the Joy-Con controllers are two separate sections that make up one controller.

This means you can use them separately and unconnected to anything else, or attached to another accessory for a more typical controller setup.

Nintendo Switch Joy-Con
Nintendo Switch Joy-Con

Each Joy-Con controller provides four buttons, an analog stick, and a bumper. When combined together, they offer quite a lot of control options within games.

Furthermore, players have the option to set up a pair of Joy-Con controllers as two separate controllers, which can be helpful for local multiplayer gaming.

A pair of Joy-Con controllers costs $69.99 from Amazon.

QRD Stellar T3 Wireless Joy-Con Controller

When we looked at the QRD Stellar T3 in January, we found it to be a very "stellar" offering if you want Joy-Con-style controllers for your devices.

Like Nintendo's originals, it's a pair of controller sections that separate from a central core section, though without the symmetrical design. The larger controller sections have directional controls, a D-pad, face buttons, bumpers, and triggers, and the controller lights up too.

QRD Stellar T3 Wireless Joycon Controller
QRD Stellar T3 Wireless Joycon Controller

While marketed as a Switch and Switch OLED controller, it too connects to Apple's hardware over Bluetooth, so it will work with iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV.

The QRD Stellar T3 is available from the company's website for $58.99.

Nenotoh Switch Controller

The Nenotoh Switch Controller, which AppleInsider reviewed in December, is another Switch Joy-Con replacement, but takes the fairly standard controller form. Since it connects to the Nintendo Switch, it also works with iPhones, iPads, Macs, and the Apple TV.

The usual button selection is available, including four face buttons, the D-pad, two thumbsticks, bumpers, and triggers, as well as some extras for triggering Home, plus and minus buttons, Turbo, and LED indicators.

Nenotoh Switch Controller
Nenotoh Switch Controller

A USB-C port is provided for recharging and connecting over a cable instead of Bluetooth. The 550mAh battery will last for around ten hours of usage.

The Nentoh Switch Controller is priced at $21.99 on Amazon.

SteelSeries Nimbus+

The SteelSeries Nimbus+ is one of the most versatile third-party controllers available that has support for Apple's hardware. Supporting iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and macOS, the controller offers all of the main functionality you would expect from a DualSense wireless controller.

The controller offers support for thousands of titles across the App Store, along with Apple Arcade, so there will be a good chance that most games you play will work with the peripheral. It sports dual analog sticks, four main buttons, a D-pad, bumpers, and hall-effect magnetic triggers.

SteelSeries Nimbus+
SteelSeries Nimbus+

While it is a conventional controller by its core design, it is also mobile gaming-friendly. There's an iPhone mount available so you can clip the smartphone to the top of the controller for a better viewing angle, without needing to prop it up anywhere.

With a 50-hour battery, it will easily handle a weekend's gaming activity.

The SteelSeries Nimbus+ is priced at $50.74 on Amazon.

GameSir T4 Pro

A more value-oriented option GameSir T4 Pro is a wireless game controller based on the classic Xbox controller. This includes identical control options, including four face buttons, a D-pad, two analog sticks, and bumpers and triggers, though it does include some extra buttons like Home and Turbo.

Despite being cheaper than most, it still offers a lot of utility, such as both wired support and Bluetooth, compatibility with MFi-supporting games, and a built-in 600mAh battery. .

GameSir T4 Pro
GameSir T4 Pro

It also includes a semi-transparent cover with RGB backlighting for decoration, leaning into one of the hardcore gaming tropes.

The GameSir T4 Pro costs $35.99 on Amazon.

Backbone One

Now in its second generation, the Backbone One provides an unparalleled hardware and software experience. A wrap-around controller type, it is designed for iPhones, with it connecting by Lightning or USB-C, depending on the variant, but it doesn't connect to other Apple hardware.

With the iPhone in the middle, there are controls including dual thumbstick, a directional pad, four face buttons, bumpers, and triggers. Extra function buttons are available, along with a passthrough port for charging and a headphone jack.

Backbone One
Backbone One

The software side is arguably Backbone's strong point, with its companion app able to handle button remapping, screenshots, and firmware updates. Subscribing to Backbone+ adds in extras like product discounts in-game rewards, game hubs, video capture, and in-app voice and text chat.

The second-generation models are available for Amazon for $99.99 on Amazon in both USB-C and Lightning versions. The first-gen model with Lightning is also available at a discount.

RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS

Another device that is based on the Xbox controller, the RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS is fairly close to the standard Microsoft offering. However, there are a number of changes to make it extremely mobile-friendly.

The MFi-certified controller has a section in the top designed to take a device holder, meaning you can place your iPhone directly above the controller itself.

A cable is used to connect to the Lightning port, meaning it will work on the iPhone 14 and earlier models, not the iPhone 15 or later. There is a second port on the controller, which is used to provide pass-through power to recharge the iPhone during gameplay, as well as a headphone jack.

RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS
RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS

There's also a dedicated Xbox button, which opens up Xbox Game Pass for quick access to the console's games on the iPhone. It's also compatible with other gaming services, including, including Steam Link and PS Remote Play.

The RiotPWR Cloud Gaming Controller for iOS Xbox Edition costs $24.99 on Amazon, a steep discount from the original $69.99.

HexGaming Rival Pro

If you want a more premium experience, HexGaming can provide you a controller customized in a wide variety of ways. Intended for serious gamers and those into esports, HexGaming's controllers take things to a more extreme and expensive level.

Starting from a genuine DualSense controller, the Rival Pro is a heavily customized variant by HexGaming. The changes include adding four remappable rear buttons that can be changed on the fly, switchable thumbsticks with variable heights, and assorted thumb grip designs for a more comfortable gaming experience.

HexGaming Rival Pro
HexGaming Rival Pro

As it's a DualSense controller at its heart, it's therefore also MFi-certified, and works just like a normal DualSense controller would when connected to Apple's hardware.

The HexGaming Rival Pro starts at $199.99 (5% off with promo code APPLEINSIDER), but that price can go north as you add more customizations, such as a specific color scheme.